NYCFC, on long unbeaten streak, have Supporters' Shield in their sights
They own the longest unbeaten streak in Major League Soccer at 12 games and are the only team with just one loss.
They are clearly the most in-form team in the league right now, but is New York City FC the best?
There’s an 11-point gap from Supporters’ Shield leaders LAFC and they’re six points off the pace set by the Eastern Conference-leading Philadelphia Union. But NYCFC have played fewer games than any team in the league.
In terms of points-per-game, NYCFC (1.81) trail only LAFC (2.22) in the Shield race.
“We're a really good squad right now. I think we've been growing into every match that we've played,” goalkeeper Brad Stuver said after a 3-0 win over the Seattle Sounders Wednesday night, in which he recorded his first MLS clean sheet. “I think it's just one of those things where if we can keep this mentality, If we can keep the next man up mentality and we can continue this through the rest of the season, I think we have a really good chance of getting the Supporters' Shield and making a run at the MLS Cup.”
While it’s a long way to November, it’s also in stark contrast to the storm clouds that hovered in early spring when the Cityzens were winless in their first six.
It’s a run that Maxi Moralez, who is on a seven-game points streak, has only experienced once in his playing career, when he was part of a Velez Sarsfield squad that lost just twice in a 19-game Apertura campaign in 2010.
“[The confidence level] is 100 percent. It’s always 100 percent, especially when you're winning the way we're winning,” Moralez said through a translator. “But It's good for the confidence of the team, of the group that we’re ascending right now.”
NYCFC coach Dome Torrent is pleased with the current form, but it’s no time to take to pat themselves on the back.
“If you are relaxing, 100 percent you will lose the next game,” Torrent said. “I'm very happy because that means we get points and we are good form right now. But it's not important, believe me, the most important thing for me is what happens in September [and October]. It’s the best time to play better, to improve.”
Torrent has praised his club for its ability to shift into different formations — against the Sounders they went from a 4-3-3 to a 4-2-3-1 to a 4-4-2 diamond and finished with a 5-3-2 — and especially for their positional play.
But there’s still lapses during the course of the game. Torrent wasn’t happy with the majority of a scoreless first half Wednesday — that could prove deadly in the postseason. As for the Audi 2019 MLS Cup Playoffs, Torrent guaranteed his team’s place.
“Sometimes we are in trouble in some minutes and that can’t happen in the playoffs, for example,” Torrent said. “I’m sure this team will play the playoff, I'm sure. But I say tonight and I say two months before when we are in trouble because, I don’t know, my feeling was much better than last year.”
For now, NYCFC are enjoying their best form in franchise history as they prepare for another tough test Sunday (6:30 pm ET | FS1, MLS LIVE on DAZN in Canada) against the Portland Timbers. After that it’s a U.S. Open Cup quarterfinal at Orlando on Wednesday and the first derby encounter next Sunday away at the Red Bulls.
“I’m very happy, but I don’t work in soccer about the records,” Torrent said. “I welcome the records, but the most important thing is to improve every single game.”